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5 Tips to See the Northern Lights

A piece of advice from an Aurora photographer
by Julia Vera Prieto | 10/05/2017 | 09:30
thumb.php?crop=0&n=destinations%2Fdonegal-ireland%2FMalin_Head%2FAurora_BW Northern Lights in Donegal | Bren Whelan (Donegal Climbing)

Bren Whelan is an award-winning photographer that has successfully captured the beauty of the Northern Lights with his camera on plenty of occasions. Just about two weeks ago, he shared one of those magic moments through his Twitter account, one that we strongly recommend to follow if you want to stay informed of current (wilderness) events in Donegal (specially if you are interested in chasing the “Lights” there!). While the Northern Lights “season” is now pretty much over in Ireland, we have asked Bren for some tips on how to ensure that your aurora watching desires are met sooner than later. So if you haven’t had any luck until now, you can now start planning with the following in mind!  

1. You have photographed the Northern Lights a good number of times. What is your favourite spot to view them in Ireland?

Malin Head is the number one place in Ireland to view the Northern Lights. This is due to its northern latitude and also its general lack of built infrastructure. It’s a very good location because it has very little light pollution. Dunaff Head, Mamore Gap, Horn Head and Bloody Foreland are other good coastal locations.

2. When is the best time of the year to view the Northern Lights?

The best times of the year to view the ‘lights’ are from October to late April.

3. What conditions influence the possibility of viewing the Lights?

Solar storm conditions are key to viewing the aurora in Donegal. They minimum storm level is G1 or more. The best KP index rating is 5 or more.

4. When are the chances higher of seeing the Lights?

On nights when a solar storm occurs and there are clear skies, along with no moon (its bright light washes out the aurora light) you have the best chance of seeing the Lights. So if you are planning a travel trip specifically for them, make sure that you avoid FULL MOONS!

5. When the time is ripe, what steps do you recommend to maximize the probability of actually seeing the Northern Lights?

When the conditions are as mentioned above, I recommend you do the following:

  • Check with Aurora Alert Ireland on Twitter.
  • Pack warm clothes, food and a drink.
  • Travel to a coastal location facing north that is free from light pollution (see question #1 above!).
  • The best time is after it is “full dark”.
  • When you arrive, turn off car lights, dashboard and radio lights and let your eyes adjust for up to 30 minutes. And hopefully the sky will dance for you!

So there you go! You have plenty of time to start planning your next Northern Lights Adventure in Donegal. Do check with Bren - he might be available for a night out!

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